By Anele Sololo, general manager, RecyclePaperZA: the paper recycling association of South Africa

Christmas Wrapping paper

The December holidays are around the corner. With early festive shopping sprees and online shopping deliveries, you might find yourself with more paper packaging than you know what to do with. Not only vital for protecting our goods from the shop to the front door, cardboard boxes can also be reused, repurposed and recycled.

For many of us, the December break is a time to de-clutter. It’s also a great time to assess our waste footprint and recycling habits. In 2018, South Africa recovered 1.285 million tonnes of paper and paper packaging, representing a rate of 71.7%. That’s nearly 1.3 million tonnes of stuff that didn’t end up in landfill, but instead went into making new packaging or tissue products.

Trash bins spilling over with torn wrapping paper, cardboard rolls, envelopes, boxes, and more

Do your bit and get sorting, separating and recycling this December.

Here are 12 easy ways to ramp up your paper recycling:
  1. If you’re making lists and checking them twice, don’t forget to be nice and recycle them.
  2. You know those magazines that you’ve kept for a rainy day … for about five years? It’s probably time to recycle them.
  3. Flatten online shopping boxes and put them out for recycling.
  4. Check your cupboards for shoe boxes you’ve kept (in case you might need them one day). Flatten and put them into the recycling bin. You could also use them to sort your clutter – old photos, receipts or your kids’ art.
  5. Label a few large boxes with Keep, Donate, Sell, Recycle or Dispose to guide you through the de-cluttering process.
  6. Did you know that if you scrunch up gift-wrap and it stays scrunched up in a ball, it’s paper-based and can be recycled? You can also do the tear test – if it tears easily and there isn’t a layer of plastic, it is recyclable. Avoid using wrapping paper with foil, cellophane, plastic coating or glitter. Brown kraft paper decorated with string and some small pine cones can look just a pretty as fancy gift-wrap.
  7. Re-use paper gift bags and boxes, or swap them out with your friends. Just remember to check the labels and tags before you re-gift!
  8. Christmas cards are less prevalent nowadays, with people preferring to wish loved ones on social media. While postage can be expensive, why not send a select few family and friends some handmade or charity greeting cards? Many Christmas cards and their envelopes are generally recyclable; just avoid glossy or shiny cards. For those that are shiny or foil-coated, cut off the front and re-purpose them for next year. (This is where those old shoe boxes could come in handy!)
  9. Paper packaging is not limited to the common brown box. You can also recycle cereal boxes, cosmetic boxes, milk and juice cartons and paper cups. Place smaller recycling bins around the house – bathroom, study and kitchen – and resolve to recycle more. You could even re-purpose cardboard boxes for this!
  10. Not sure what to do with your recycling? Check out
  11. Separate non-paper material from paper-based packaging before recycling.
  12. Paper isn’t the only recyclable material. Don’t forget to recycle plastic, glass and tin, all of which are also widely recyclable in South Africa. Check out Treevolution’s comprehensive guide.

Do you have any great decluttering tips? Tag @paperrocksza on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with a photo and your tips.